It has become painfully clear that the U.S. economy has not rebounded as expected, and the dollar is not performing well. Across the sea in Europe, things don’t look a heck of a lot better. Growth has quite frankly stagnated. And it seems that Japan has yet to wake up from a period of dormancy that began back in 1998. The buzz around the IT industry has now turned to China -- the place to see and be seen.
But as usual, the most obvious hot spot is right under our own noses -- the sleeping giant known as Latin America.
While the United States and other western markets are expected to grow about six percent annually, International Data Corporation (IDC) sees Latin America's growth rate averaging 16 percent annually. It’s anticipated that some of those countries may even grow as much as 20 percent per year.
How is this possible? Growth rates for most Latin American countries are more dynamic given the low saturation point for PC and PDA (personal digital assistant) products, for example. Businesses are more conscious of the benefits derived from an implementation of specialized applications, and local firms are taking advantage of this trend. International software publishers like IBM, Sun, Oracle and Microsoft understand the opportunities that await them in the southern American market and have jumped on them.
Yet there are some key differences between Latin America and other countries that most likely account for their ability to grow quickly. Project sizes tend to be smaller, and the intense scrutiny from U.S. headquarters that requires a quantifiable ROI (return on investment) argument as part of the sales process is not always given the same degree of attention in this region. However, providing an ROI argument can provide significant advantages to software publishers who go to the trouble to provide one. Most companies buying software in the region will tend to look to industry-specific solutions, and thus ROI becomes a very important factor. They seem to have a “sink or swim” attitude towards doing business. In many cases, the best way to market vertical software in the region is through industry, as opposed to using IT consultants.
The most attractive markets today are Brazil, Mexico and, to a lesser degree, Argentina and Colombia. For the software industry, there is a serious need for companies that offer complimentary services that can help them grow. Services like -- localization.
Take Brazil for instance: the biggest population, the greatest area, and the largest and most diverse industrial base in Latin America. Brazil is not only an attractive market, it is also an excellent launching pad for products and for exporting from Latin America.
Latin Americans in the United States
Interestingly enough, few companies are distributing the Spanish version of their localized products in the United States. Although the U.S. Hispanic purchasing purse equals USD 428 billion a year, and the U.S. Hispanic market is the fifth largest in the world, most companies prefer to sell their products only in English. Many of these same companies create a localized product for the Latin American market, but don’t include U.S. Hispanics. This may be because there are few talented Hispanic advertising agencies or localization companies headquartered in the United States.
The convergence of localization and advertising for the U.S. Hispanic market brings together two distinct needs -- education and motivation. Localization companies have experience in helping consumers use products. Branding and advertising appeal to the consumers’ emotions and provide a call to action: “Get up and buy now! After all, you need it!” Very few companies have the experience in both venues. It’s a lot of work with a lot of risk that might not be well compensated -- at first.
For those interested in targeting the U.S. Hispanic market, there are some general marketing strategies to consider. You’re selling to a culture, not selling a language, and this culture thinks differently than the general market. The United States is constituted by Hispanics who speak only Spanish, Hispanics who speak only English but talk, walk and think like Hispanics, and the bilingual (but English-dominant) Hispanics.
A successful Hispanic marketing strategy will cross-pollinate its message in both English and Spanish. The U.S. Hispanic market is more open to using English terms, such as “voicemail,” because they hear these words in English with greater frequency. Another reason is that the longer Hispanic Spanish-dominant speakers stay in the United States, the more comfortable they become using English words.
Basic cultural differences among Hispanics
Contrary to the reputation that precedes Hispanic males via macho stereotyping, the husband is not, and I repeat not, the final decision-maker in the family (I hope my wife is not reading this). Hispanic families are matriarchal, that is, the wife has the final say while the man pounds his chest, stomps his feet and says, “I’m in charge.” He is for all intents and purposes, a “paper tiger.” My point is this: the women are making the majority of the buying decisions.
Another cultural difference can be found in religion. In the United States, it has become politically incorrect to send Christmas cards stating “Merry Christmas.” We create generic, made-up terms, such as “Happy Holidays.” For most Hispanics, the meaning of December 25 is highly religious. Our firm once worked on an advertising piece for MBE (MailBoxes, Etc.), which was going to be used in the United States and all Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. We had to fight to be able to use the word “Christmas” in Spanish, since the campaign was going to be used in the United States as well.
The client wanted to increase packaging and shipping sales. The problem was that most Hispanics don’t trust the mail (sorry, United States Postal Service) because the mail in their country is basically distributed sporadically, i.e., when the mail carriers get around to doing it. Hispanics, unlike Americans, consider that much of the thought behind a gift is in its packaging. Our Hispanic campaign focused on providing a sense of security that their precious gifts would be delivered safely and on time, and that they would be handled as if they were packaged and sent from home. This particular project was a great example of how important it is to weave cultural differences into a strategy for this particular market.
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You don't make mistakes
This, of course, sounds counterintuitive. Making mistakes should be the very thing most likely to put your career at risk, no?
The problem with never making mistakes is that you never learn anything. And in today's rapidly changing world, not learning is not an option.
This is a challenge in an ROI-driven world. The temptation toward risk aversion is great when you're accountable for results. You're apt to do what you know for sure will work. But the absence of risk leads to mediocrity.
I recently saw Scott Bedbury, the former CMO of Nike and Starbucks, speak at the Marketing Forum conference in Miami. Bedbury told the audience that we are living in an increasingly commoditized world and that the vast majority of brands are competing in a race to the bottom. He described the need for brands to consider the brand experience they deliver to their customers, and where the opportunities for innovation -- and differentiation -- exist.
I stood up and asked the question, "How do we convince our clients to invest in innovative ideas and brand experiences when they are challenged to prove ROI for every dollar when the very nature of being a new idea makes that impossible?"
Bedbury began his answer, "That's a real challenge. But fully half of the things we as marketers should do for a brand are not predictably quantifiable."
The crowd went nuts.
Over time, more often than not, tried-and-true results wane, slowly and steadily into the marketing career abyss.
So, make mistakes. Take risks. Fail sometimes. And learn when you do.
Shiny Object Syndrome
When I was a kid growing up in suburbia, we used to eat dinner on the deck in the backyard in the summertime. It was warm, and it was fun to eat outside. But there were bugs. Lots of them. Until one day, my dad climbed up on a ladder and mounted a bug zapper on the wall. Its glowing purple gleam drew in the moths and mosquitoes one by one. They couldn't resist. Until, PHZZZZT! One by one, they died a fiery death.
Today, I see many marketers that remind me of those bugs. But instead of staring unblinkingly at a purple light, these people have their eyeballs glued to Mashable.com, incessantly searching for the next new innovation that will revolutionize their go-to-market plan. They have Shiny Object Syndrome.
The malady of Shiny Object Syndrome is the opposite of being too risk averse. It's the unwavering belief that being the very first to incorporate every new technological possibility into your marketing plan will be like arming yourself with a silver-bullet machine gun. It's the inability to stop looking at what's next when you actually should be looking behind you.
How do you know if you have this disease?
- Are you feverishly planning your new iPad app without knowing why?
- Do you think Foursquare mayor specials are going to replace your TV budget?
- Would you like to replace company HQ with a Facebook fan page?
- Are you spending more time worrying about how Twitter is going to monetize its business than how you are going to monetize your own?
- Did you really build an island in Second Life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you're showing symptoms of Shiny Object Syndrome.
Yes, it's important to embrace new technology. Yes, it's important to innovate. Yes, it's important to try new things.
But do it because you have a strategy to achieve an objective, not just because you can.
Depending on what you're marketing, a good strategy could be to provide utility to your customers to make your product work better for them. It could be to provide entertainment to your customers so you can deepen your emotional relationship with them. It could be to provide free stuff to your customers so you can expose them to offers on a recurring basis. Heck, it might even be a good strategy to be the first to do something with a particular new technology because you see a PR opportunity.
Contrast these with the non-strategies of a Shiny Object Syndrome victim. These include "because everyone else is," because it's "innovative," and "because I can."
Believe me. I'm no enemy of innovation. I fervently believe in its value to build businesses and crush competitors. But innovation for innovation's sake is not innovation at all. And if you consistently chase it blindly, you're liable to throw your career down the toilet.
You hitch your wagon to stardust
How do you define yourself? Are you a guru? A maverick? An all-star?
As the fickle universe we live and work in continues to evolve, be careful that you don't hitch your wagon to a star that may dissolve into the ether.
Imagine how silly you'd sound like if you called yourself a "Web 2.0 designer" right now. Might have been a tempting moniker three years ago.
Brand positioning is an art and a science. It takes insight and experience to uncover an effective brand position because one must consider so many factors:
- What appeals to the target?
- What are the target's perspectives on the brand?
- What are the differentiating brand attributes?
- What does the competitive landscape look like?
- What are the trends in the marketplace?
- Which of those trends are likely to be lasting ones?
We should consider our personal branding no less seriously.
Be careful not to define yourself by what might be a flash in the pan. Today, the term "Web 2.0" describes everything and nothing. Tomorrow, what other buzz words will become so ubiquitous and ill defined as to become meaningless?
Take a look at the term "social media expert." That term could mean you are an expert at monitoring social conversations to mine them for insights, that you're an expert at building relationships with bloggers and key influencers for brands, that you're an expert at creating marketing programs or planning paid media that is social in nature, or that you're an expert at transforming organizations to be more social in nature.
Too much face time
In college, we used to hang out on the quad between classes. We'd wave to our friends and acquaintances as they passed by. We'd wear sunglasses and be cool. We'd see and be seen.
We called it getting "face time."
Now, anytime is face time. Everyone's on Facebook. The cool kids are on Twitter saying, "Look at me." The cooler kids who have a social life are on Foursquare showing where they've been. And the really cool kids are on deviantart.com, shaking their heads at the rest of us.
It is clearly important to take the time to understand and make good use of emerging marketing tools. More than 400 million are logging onto Facebook every day. Surely, exploring ways to connect with them makes sense.
It is also all well and good to leverage these tools to help accomplish your daily business objectives. LinkedIn can be a great way to recruit talent, meet potential partners, and crowd-source answers from subject matter experts around the globe. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to build communities of your most passionate brand advocates. Yelp can help you find a good restaurant where you can take a client out to lunch. Hell, use Pandora to create a personalized electronica radio station that gets your creative juices flowing when you need to get "in the zone" under your headphones at the office.
But realize there is a fine line between using these tools effectively and becoming a social media zombie. The slope toward mental mush on the other side of that line is very steep indeed.
Simply put, these tools are addictive. What starts with minutes to "check in" on your social channels can easily transform itself into a three-hour procrastination session. Every day.
You see where this is headed. If the most productive thing you did this afternoon was write a clever tweet, you've got a problem. Because you know that gal three cubicles down competing for the promotion that's going to pay for your kids to go to that fancy nursery school with the on-staff yoga instructor? That gal actually got some work done today.
You're a lousy communicator
Marketing is about communication. We work hard to uncover insights and craft messages that resonate with the human beings we want to become our customers. Then, we create and deliver ideas that shift their perceptions and compel them to action. At the core of everything we do in this business is the what, how, and why of communication.
Yet, we seem to be lousy at doing it amongst ourselves. We don't define our objectives. We shove kitchen sinks into creative briefs and then give unclear and unconsolidated feedback. We assume people understand. Or we let people assume we understand when we don't.
This last one is the worst. What people don't realize is that 90 percent of communication is listening. Many people in the ad biz don't get that because they've grown up in a broadcasting mindset, but if you don't listen -- and listen carefully -- you're apt to broadcast the wrong message.
Which leads to mistakes. Which, if you learn from them, is OK. But if you don't...
You take relationships for granted
Every day, you have to get things done. To get those things done, you have to work with people -- employees, employers, partners, clients, and vendors. And, to get those people to do those things, you've got two choices.
First, you can make them do it. You can force, compel, order, threaten, coerce, strong arm, squeeze, pressure, or browbeat them.
Or, you can build relationships.
All of the "make them" techniques I described can be very effective in the short term. But what about tomorrow? What about when you don't have leverage over someone -- to fire them, to quit on them, to deny them your business? Maybe they don't report to you. Maybe they don't need your business. Maybe they have 50 emails in their inbox, but only have time to respond to three. Will yours be one of them?
This business -- heck, every business -- is built on relationships. If you don't invest in them, you will not have them when you need them. I'm not just saying, "Don't be a jerk." That's obvious. I'm not saying, "Be everybody's best friend" either. But if you want to succeed in your career, you need to build relationships with people so they know who you are, so they trust you, and so they want to do their best when they interact with you professionally.
Know your message
Even if you're not quite ready to smash a wrecking ball through your current image, to pivot from one message to another requires clear, defined communication. Bryon Lomas, VP creative director, Garfield Group, suggests, "Before you go off dying your hair and losing 85 percent of your clothing, the first thing you need to do is step back and ask yourself, 'Why are we rebranding?'"
"A rebrand should be based on a real business need, objective or reality. It could be a change in your product offering, your service or even your staff -- perhaps a merger or principal hire. Another reason might be that you want to stand out in the market because you've become complacent or lost in the noise," he adds.
"Successful reinvention comes from digging deep to find what's true about a brand's DNA," says Britt Fero, chief strategy officer, Publicis Seattle, "and then being able to reinterpret that for new audiences, new markets, new times. Rarely have brands totally scrapped everything they've always been about and successfully become something else. But they have reached down deep to find what's always been true and found a new way of behaving based on those same beliefs. Burger King, for example: 'Have it Your Way' wasn't a new thought for the brand -- but Subservient Chicken signaled a new way of behaving around that core idea," she says.
Bryon Lomas says the most important lesson you can learn when rebranding is to "stand out." He adds, "You are changing who you are to people, whether you're going from a mom-and-pop organization to a large one, simply want to stay relevant to your audience, or are trying to acquire a new one. Rebrand with a bang."
"Miley didn't just lose the Hannah Montana side of her; she changed everything about herself, from her look to her personality, style of music, persona and audience. And she did it with a bang. She made heads turn, she made people stop in their tracks, she made people sing along and, most importantly, she made people talk about her," adds Lomas.
And rebranding doesn't have to mean going rogue, being risqué, or changing your values all at once -- although, it can.
"Shock and awe does work. That's been proven time and time again. It's almost a theorem; the stronger a brand is, the more powerful the counter force that is required to shift its image," says Kevin Meany, founder and CEO of BFG.
Fero suggests to not go all "Miley" on your brand, "if they're looking for a Good Housekeeping seal of approval or want to sell to moms."
Target a new demographic
One of the hardest feats for a brand to achieve is not just finding a new audience or demographic to reach, but winning that new audience over. In Miley's case, going from innocent Disney poster child to edgy adult pop princess required having unwavering confidence in her new image.
"Miley didn't tell her audience what to think. Rather she let the audience discover the new Miley, and she let them pass it on. YouTube works! Better yet, Miley was totally authentic and believably honest when speaking about her transformation and her evolution from Hannah Montana to 'Wrecking Ball,'" says Kevin Meany.
If you don't believe what you're brand is now selling, then why should anyone else?
"You want your audience to believe that your brand is a living, breathing entity, consistent across all mediums, including on stage, in social media, online, in the office, in the store or wherever people might come across it," adds Bryon Lomas.
No matter what channel your new message is being communicated through, consistency is key.
"You only get one chance to make sure it's firing on all cylinders. From your logo, to your website, to your collateral, to your social pages, they should all be consistent. They should all have the same look and say the same thing," adds Lomas.
Take risks (and don't apologize for them)
"Go big or go home," was coined by an unknown yet brave soul who was 150 percent committed to his or her decisions, despite what the haters might say or think. And that's exactly the mindset your brand must have when going through a rebrand.
"It's not easy. It's a challenging process that requires a lot of time looking in the mirror, which can be difficult for some. Don't rush it. Make sure it's right, make sure it's you and make sure that at the end of the day it's something that you can live with. Some brands have done it well, while others have not," says Bryon Lomas.
Going out of your comfort zone inherently requires taking a leap, no matter how big or small that might be. But even with your risks, make sure they are authentic, relevant, and aligned with your new message.
"Stunts draw people in. They make headlines. They create waves. They drive conversation. Miley proved that. The 2013 VMA shenanigans drove record sales. She was even in the running for Time's person of the year. But stunts usually don't create long term effect -- and truly reinvent or rebrand, unless stunts are really the core of her brand. She'll need to keep up the shock and awe in order to truly become a brand that is about shock and awe. Otherwise, they're just antics that can drive quick sales or conversation," says Britt Fero.
And sometimes the bigger the brand the harder it is to make the bigger moves.
"I don't know of any big brands that could or would take the risk Miley did. I've been in the board room, and heard the debate -- big brand conversations usually start with an optimistic focus on what can be achieved through change, but typically end with a focus on what can be lost; sales, brand advocates, equity, stockholders. Big brands usually take a safer smaller step and as a result never make the giant leap Miley has," says Kevin Meany.
If there's a rebrand in your near future, consider these tactics before leaping. But if you're not quite ready, the 2014 VMAs are just a few weeks away, which if we're lucky, might include some more inspiration from a new Miley.
Betsy Farber is an associate editor at iMedia Connection.
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"Miley on the wrecking ball image" via here.